I’m not here this month—December is my month to go offline every year and watch my son grow up. I really don’t have any time to lose. So I’ll be blogging in absentia a series of posts on how to find everything you need through the craft of writing, this amazing work that you and I and all of us here have chosen as the craft of our souls.
Let’s start with the good stuff: joy & fulfillment.
Ignore the hype!
It is deafening.
But it is not writing.
It is hype.
Right now we happen to be living through a time of enormous change in publishing, which has brought with it an absolute avalanche of emphasis upon the industry of marketing. Congratulations on the Era of Marketing! Enjoy it while you can, marketers. It hasn’t always been this way for writers, and it won’t always be this way for writers, because it isn’t, in fact, intrinsic to writing itself.
This too shall pass.
And when it does, we will find lying in its wake—just as fully and magnificently as before the avalanche hit—our writing. It does not change just because someone out there changes the process through which we expose it to the public view.
It’s still writing.
Recognize the craft.
Writing is not the same thing as selling our work. It’s not even the same thing as being read.
Writing is using the written word to reach into the fog of invisibility that shrouds our every waking moment and retrieve the primal experience of being alive. All of the arts are tools for this. Painters do it through painting, sculptors do it through sculpture, dancers do it through movement, playwrights, actors, and directors do it through theater, musicians do it through music. But storytellers do it through story, and writers do it through the nearly-infinite variety and flexibility of literacy.
This craft is our chosen tool for retrieval. We writers spend our lives learning to wield this particular tool as perfectly as we are able.
Reach for the joy!
The truth is we arrive here on this planet mostly just because our parents have sex, and while we’re here we do a whole lot of crying, raging, suffering, wondering, and sometimes noodling around simply being bored.
But we’re in it for the joy.
So focus upon this craft you have chosen—these words and sentences and paragraphs, these pens and pencils and notebooks, typewriters and keyboards and computer screens, these facets of dialog and flashes of action and glimpses of intricate settings. Forget your themes and ideas and feelings, and simply burrow through your written words into the vivid experiences of living. Record those experiences in all their beautiful and dreadful, enormous and tiny, complementary and contradictory detail. Detail.
Wake up from the dream and go outside. Come in again and sink back into the dream. Over and over and over. Reflect your world in words as if you were a mirror, and eventually you will begin to glimpse in the distance behind the figures in the mirror that poignant, often-bittersweet joy we suspect but can’t always feel. You’ll stumble unexpectedly upon a transitory moment of insight into what it all means, especially when you don’t understand what it is you’re trying to say. That moment is what makes life worthwhile and what we writers are after all along.
It’s the unsayable.
That vivid experience is where fulfillment lies.